Summary: Paul has been writing to the Philippian church, warning them about internal controversies that could divide them. Now Paul turns the attention of the church in Philippi away from the internal controversies and tells them to watch out for legalists.
What is your aim as a Christian? The aim of a Christian is to, or should be to, please God. Every Christian should in his heart seek to please God. So as Christians we often as that question. What can we do to please God?
One person asked this question to a respected Christian institution. He phrased it this way. What must I give up to please God? The response came from this Christian institution. First of all give up all colored clothes. Where only white. My tie I am wearing would definitely be out. Everything that is not white get rid of from your wardrobe, they replied. Another thing to please God they said, stop sleeping on a soft pillow. That will only make you soft and how can you please God if you are sleeping on a soft pillow?
Sell your musical instruments and have no entertainment. Don’t eat white bread anymore because it might bring you too much enjoyment. The last thing. Take no more warm baths only cold baths. These were the requirements laid out to please God. They came from a second century Christian institution. Popular Christian teachers have brought these examples to our attention as they have written in our day.
We may not face this kind of bizarre legalism today. I have never heard anyone tell us that we must give up our colored clothes or soft pillows. But still, we face the enemy of legalism in our day. In the second century it was not to sleep on soft pillows and to give up colored clothes. Paul faced legalism in the first century. The Judiasers wanted the Christians to do certain things. They tried to add good works on top of God’s abundant grace. So, legalism is nothing new and it is still with us today.
Let’s read Philippians Chapter 3:1-6. Paul writes these words to the church at Philippi that he loved. It was a church dear to his heart. He warns them of the enemy of legalism.
Phil 3:1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.
Paul has been writing to the Philippian church, warning them about internal controversies that could divide them. Warning them to caution from a self centered perspective that could ruin their Christian life, but now beginning here in chapter 3, Paul turns the attention of the church in Philippi away from the internal controversies and their own self centeredness and tells them to watch out for those on the outside of the church trying to inject legalistic qualifications on the church.
Now here is a different warning coming from outside. He is warning of legalism that Paul knows could destroy the church. This young church could be deceived into thinking they were still under the obligation to follow the Old Testament law. Paul makes it clear that Christianity is a religion of grace. It is a religion based on undeserved favor. It is not a system of the law.
In our day and age we need to hear that again, that Christianity is a religion of grace. Just recently I read a book that I would recommend to you, The Grace Awakening by Charles Swindoll. He calls the Christian church to a new awakening to that idea of grace. To put aside the legalistic bondage and the idea of salvation through works. We should realize that what we have as Christians is all undeserved favor from God.
Paul attacks this enemy of legalism. His first great weapon to attack legalism is that of joy. Look at verse one: Phil 3:1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord!
Joy should be a major part of every Christian believer. It is a theme in the book of Philippians. Sixteen times there is reference to rejoicing or joy in the book of Philippians. Joy is a part of the Christian life. Paul himself is rejoicing, even though he is in prison. Even though he does not know the outcome of his imprisonment. He may face death, but Paul rejoices. He writes a book of joy in the midst of all this. Paul is warning the Philippians against legalism and he does so by exhorting them to be joyous.